Ask The Mechanic – Stay Safe During The Winter

How to Keep You and Your Van Safe During The Winter
Those who are brave enough will “carry on
camping” through the winter, here are some
handy tips to keep you and your van safe and
warm this winter.
An important step to keeping your camper
warm is to stop the heat escaping from the
inside. This can be done by insulating the van
as best you can.
The windows are one of the first areas to
look at when insulating as they will lose a
substantial amount of heat and will also create
condensation when sleeping and cooking
inside the van.
To insulate the windows, there are ready made
thermo-screens that can be purchased as a
set for most variants of the T2. These are very
effective and not too much hassle to fit and
The other (cheaper) option is to make your
own thermo-screens, although these may
not be as effective, depending on how far
you go with them. I had planned to trial this
using radiator foil insulation between the
glass and curtains on the side windows, but
unfortunately haven’t had a chance yet. If a
member has successfully managed to make
their own window insulation and wants to
share this, please let us know!
Other vital areas to insulate are the side panels,
floor and roof. These are best done at anytime
you may have the interior removed. There are
several forms of insulation on the market and
some can be used as sound deadening too,
helping to stop panels from resonating and
reducing road noise.

If you have a pop top roof, there are now pop
top wraps available that insulate the material
on the outside to stop heat escaping from this
obvious weak spot.
If you are able to, an easy way to keep the heat
in is to keep your roof closed overnight!

Now you have insulated the van to keep
the heat inside it, what ways are there to heat
your van?
VW campers are small spaces to heat so do
not require systems such as those in larger
When camping, most people will have at least
one fuel supply available to them, whether
mains 230v from campsite hookups, or a gas
supply for cooking.
The gas can be used to supply a heater called
a Propex HeatSource. These can be fitted
to all variants of T2, as long as you have a
12v supply. It is recommended that they are
fitted by a professional.
The Propex is very popular, offering high
efficiency and flexibility with fitment location.
The Propex HeatSource tends to retail
between £450-£800 depending on the vehicle
and the model.
Cheaper alternatives are available, but these
will require a 230v mains supply.
Heating appliances such as fan heaters,
halogen heaters, convector heaters and oil
filled radiators are very good for heating the
small space inside your camper and are readily
available at very competitive prices.
Personally we have observed that fan heaters
are good for a quick blast of heat, but the heat
inside the camper tends to drop very quickly
once turned off and we wouldn’t recommend
using them overnight whilst asleep as they are
noisy (and we wouldn’t trust it!).
Halogen heaters are good for heating awnings
as they don’t physically get hot, but you need
to be directly in front of these heaters to
benefit from them, they don’t actually heat
the space around you, therefore again not
recommended for overnight use.
Convector heaters are very efficient and
cheap to buy. They will heat a small space
effectively and can be set up with a
thermostat, making these good for overnight
use. However, if anything is placed on them,
there is a risk that the item will get incredibly
hot, causing a fire risk.
Oil filled radiators are essentially a convector
heater, but they store heat in the oil making
them very efficient and can also be used with a
thermostat. They can be used safely overnight
and the other advantage of these heaters is
that items of clothing such as socks can be left
on them to warm up

The disadvantage of these heaters is that
they are standalone and will take up additional
The following are some winter driving tips,
however if in doubt, don’t go out!
 Watch weather reports prior to a longdistance drive or before driving in
isolated areas.
 Make sure your vehicle is in good
operating condition.
 Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your
vehicle at all times.
 Take a mobile phone in case of a
breakdown or becoming stranded.
 If you become stranded, stay with your
vehicle as it provides temporary shelter and
makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
 Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
Accelerating slowly is the best method for
regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t
try to get moving in a hurry and take time
to slow down.
 Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on
snow-covered roads, accelerating, stopping
and turning!
 Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big
difference in the amount of inertia it takes
to start moving from a full stop versus how
much it takes to get moving while still
rolling. If you can slow down enough to
keep rolling until a traffic light changes,
do it.
 Don’t power up hills as this can start your
wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia
going before you reach the hill and let that
inertia carry you to the top.
Storing Your Camper
Those who prefer to store their camper
through the winter can take extra measures
to ensure their camper is hibernating well and
is snuggly tucked away to keep it in a tip-top,
reliable condition.

Storing Your Camper
Those who prefer to store their camper
through the winter can take extra measures
to ensure their camper is hibernating well and
is snuggly tucked away to keep it in a tip-top,
reliable condition.
 All water should be drained from any
storage tanks. If it freezes, it will expand and
could split the tanks and/or any associated
pipe work.
 Any propane and butane gas tanks should
be removed and stored in a safe location,
such as a garage or workshop.
 It’s a good idea to thoroughly clean the
inside of your vehicle, paying particular

attention to the kitchen or cooking area,
food storage cupboards and fridge. Mould
can grow, creating all manner of problems
and rats and mice could be attracted to
forgotten food items.
 If possible, remove bedding or bedding
covers for cleaning and then store indoors
until next required.
 Consider the use of mousetraps during the
winter to stop vermin in their tracks. While
your van hibernates, rats and mice can ruin
that lovely interior of your camper van.
 If you store your van inside, leave the
windows open an inch to allow for air
circulation, this should prevent damp and
mould from developing.
 If you store your van outside, when possible
on those dry days, open the windows or
leave the side door open for the same
reasons. (Don’t forget to close them again
and lock up!)
 Generally, it is advisable not to store your
vehicle under a tarpaulin. They can stop the
air from circulating around and can cause
mould to develop inside the camper.
 If you are desperate to use a tarpaulin,
maybe create a frame to stretch it over
to prevent it touching your camper and
allowing air to circulate underneath.
 The ideal place to leave your camper van
is inside a covered building. However, this
isn’t always practical or possible! Could you
rent a building or borrow a friend’s garage
for the winter?
 Check the tyre pressures before storing and
consider placing your camper van on axle
stands to stop the tyres from deteriorating.
This is pretty extreme though and
would generally be for storage over
long durations.
 Moving parts such as door hinges and
mechanical parts should be lubricated
which will keep them
moving and repel water.
 Make sure your camper van is clean
before you store it away as dirt retains
moisture that can lead to rust.
 Don’t be tempted to regularly start your
engine which can deposit moisture in the
engine oil and exhaust system. Start it at
least once a month and ensure the engine
runs for 30 minutes on idle and rev the
engine periodically.
 Consider changing the oil just before you
store your camper and if leaving the vehicle
for an extended period of time, try and
keep the main vehicle battery charged.